NASA has been doing work lately. Their most recent achievement certainly required some materials not carried by any odd laboratory supply company. In about a month, an unmanned NASA spacecraft called the Parker Probe will come closer to the sun than we have ever come before.
Why? In the name of science, of course. The sun is hot, we know that. Its core is millions of degrees, while the surface simmers somewhere around a comparatively mild 10,000 degrees. Further away from the surface, in a place called the corona, the temperature is back into the millions and we’ve never known why. NASA is confident that the Parker Probe will provide some insight into the corona.
“I like to tell people: ‘What would you do if you lit your campfire or a fire in your fireplace, and as you walked toward it, it got colder?’,” said Bill Matthaeus, mission planner and physics professor from the University of Delaware.
This goes against every terrestrial idea we have on heat, so they’re excitedly curious as the Parker Probe loops its way closer to the hottest seats in the galaxy. As it does get closer to extreme temperatures, people are also wondering how the probe itself will be able to withstand such heat.
Physicists postulate that the sun’s corona is very low density, there aren’t many particles, and those particles are moving extremely fast, thus not having time enough to create a heat transfer of millions of degrees. Still, the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins created a shell for the craft that can easily withstand the predicted temperature of 2,500 degrees and beyond, giving the probe and the necessary tools ample protection while collecting and transmitting data. Not stuff you find lying around in your everyday science lab supplies.
By 1,000 B.C. civilizations were using technologies and theories that would become the basis for various branches of science. Now, by 2025, the Parker Probe will be a few million miles from the sun, likely the closest it will ever get. What we’ll find from the data it collects will be a mystery for a while, but such is the adventure of science.
Our laboratory supply store might not be able to fit you with sun proof composite coating built for deep space exploration, but our lab supplies will have you well fitted for plenty of experiments while NASA takes apart the mysteries of the cosmos.